Foreign policy and defense
According to abbreviationfinder, Lebanon is a nation in Western Asia. Its capital city is Beirut. Prior to the civil war of 1975-1990, when the Christian groups dominated politics, Lebanon tried to remain neutral in the region’s conflicts while close relations with the West, especially France. During the war, Syria gained a strong grip on the country and since then both domestic and foreign policy have been dominated by the question of how Lebanon should relate to Syria.
Syria has had a hard time accepting that Lebanon had broken out of the Syrian mandate in the 1920s, managed by the United Nations’ forerunner of the United Nations. During the civil war, Syria gained a stronger position in the country and became in practice an occupying power. A 1991 cooperation agreement allowed Syria and its friends in Lebanon to rule over the appointment of both president and government. The situation changed radically again in 2005, when the Syrian army was forced to leave Lebanon (see Modern History). Lebanon was now given more leeway.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Lebanon for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Which line since then characterized foreign policy has depended on which political block dominated the government. From 2005 to 2011, the government was led by the west-friendly March 14 alliance, which is also backed by Saudi Arabia and has a critical attitude towards Syria and Syria’s ally Iran (which is Saudi Arabia’s arch rival in the region). During this time, however, there was a closer relationship between the Lebanese government and Syria, which had its basis in a temporary tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia tend to act kingmakers in Lebanon. The Saudi Arabian tendency to intervene was demonstrated in a crisis in the fall of 2017, when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (who is also a Saudi citizen) was detained on Saudi soil for weeks, judging by his will.
In 2008, Syria recognized Lebanon’s independence. It was agreed to resume work on defining the border between the countries, with the exception of the disputed Sheba area, which is at the intersection of southeast Lebanon, southwestern Syria and northern Israel. The 25-square-kilometer area was occupied by Israel during the six-day war in 1967. Israel claims that the area belongs to the Golan Heights while the UN believes its maps show that Shebaa is Syrian territory, which Lebanon in turn questions. The residents of the village of Shebaa on the Lebanese side have for many years – until 1989 – used the agricultural land in the area, which is now a closed military zone.
With Israel, Lebanon has been formally at war since 1948 when the state of Israel was proclaimed and immediately attacked by surrounding Arab states. In 1949, a ceasefire was concluded, but no peace agreement was ever reached. Instead, Lebanon has formed the basis for both Hezbollah’s and Palestinian guerrilla groups’ attacks on Israel. Retaliation attacks from Israel have on several occasions caused havoc in Lebanon. The countries are also involved in a dispute about where the sea boundary between them should go (see Natural Resources and Energy).
Lebanon’s most important partner in the western world is the former colonial power of France. Today, France not only has contacts with the Christian minority but with several groups; after 2005 mainly with the March 14 alliance. In the EU, France has countered that Hezbollah would be designated a terrorist group (see Political system). France has also been active in providing financial assistance to Lebanon in times of crisis.
Relations with the rest of the EU are also good. The EU and Lebanon have an association agreement and the EU is also an important aid donor, not least in terms of funding for dealing with the refugee situation (see Population and languages). The EU and Lebanon cooperate in a number of areas, including reforming Lebanon’s legal system, electoral system and increasing transparency and efficiency in governance. Strengthened human rights are also in focus.
The Lebanese also have extensive contacts with the United States, which calls for Lebanon to remain a cohesive and democratic state. Washington has contributed large sums to the post-war reconstruction of Israel in 2006, and to the Lebanese army that the United States sees as vital to keeping Lebanon together. The countries also have a trade agreement. However, the US embassy in Beirut must be closely guarded because of US support for Israel’s policy and past terrorist acts against US targets.
The army, which is a professional army, is dominated by Sunni Muslims but has nevertheless been seen as a national force in Lebanon where many political groups have moved with their own militia. The army is deployed if necessary to try to curb local violence and mediate between combatants.
One problem is insufficient and outdated equipment but this is changing. Following the Islamic Islamist (IS) extreme expansion of the Islamic State (IS) in Iran and Syria, primarily the United States and Saudi Arabia, but also other countries, have provided billions of dollars in grants to equip the Lebanese army.
The strongest military force in Lebanon is Hezbollah’s armed branch, which is estimated to have about 20,000 men under arms, of which 5,000 are considered elite soldiers. Hezbollah is dependent on Iran for funding, training and weapons. Israel is monitoring the relations between Hezbollah and Iran to the best of its ability. One of the aims is to prevent Hezbollah from accessing precision controlled robots if possible.
There is some cooperation between Hezbollah and the army. Army soldiers, among others, received training and training from Hezbollah.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), established in 1978 to monitor Israel’s retreat from Lebanon, is still in the country and has the task, among other things, of guarding the border between Lebanon and Israel. The force comprises more than 10,000 men.
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FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 56 600 men (2017)
The air Force: 1 600 men (2017)
The fleet: 1 800 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 4.5 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 15.6 percent (2017)
Call for boycott by UN tribunal
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calls on Lebanon to boycott the UN tribunal, which is reported to be in mascot with Israel.
Iran’s President Visits Lebanon
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making a controversial visit to Lebanon, ending with a demonstration in Hezbollah’s stronghold near the Israeli border.
Hezbollah suspected to be behind murder
Leaking media in the West argues that the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of Hariri is leaning on Hezbollah who organized the assassination that took the life of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri five years earlier (see February 2005). Hezbollah launches a campaign to discredit the tribunal and presents material to prove that Israel was behind the murder instead.
Several dead in clash at the border
Three Lebanese – two soldiers and one journalist – as well as an Israeli military are killed when the Israeli and Lebanese military collide at the disputed border. The incident is the most serious since the 2006 war.
Storayatollan Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah dies (see Religion).